Growing a successful garden can be a challenge when you consider the need to factor in soil quality, temperature, available sunshine and rain, along with various plant diseases and pests. Still, many growers add another element to the mix: gardening in harmony with the phases of the moon.
The practice began when humans first began to cultivate food crops. Ancient civilizations marked their rituals and daily activities using a celestial calendar which included the planting and harvesting of domestic gardens. For centuries, this practice was handed down as an oral tradition steeped in myth and folklore. In the early 20th century, lunar phase gardening became one of the guiding principles for biodynamic gardening. Still a subject of controversy among scientists, research is yielding results that shed new light on gardening according to the aspect of the moon.
Perhaps the best news for home gardeners is that gardening with the moon doesn’t appear to have any adverse effect, so there's no harm in trying!
What Is Lunar Phase Gardening?
Moon phase gardening, in its most basic form, adheres to the four periods or phases of the earth’s lunar satellite. The moon goes through a full cycle every 29.5 days and appears differently in the sky depending on its position between the earth and the sun. The four phases used in basic lunar phase gardening are new moon, first quarter moon, full moon, and fourth (or last) quarter moon.
The principle behind lunar phase gardening is fairly simple. When the moon is waxing (changing from new to full), the time is right for planting seeds that yield fruit above ground. When the moon has passed full and is waning (diminishing) the time is right to plant root crops with edible parts below the soil. A waning moon is also considered the optimum time to harvest when the process of photosynthesis is slowest and less fluid is moving through the plant. This translates to a longer shelf life in storage.
The time to plant seeds that yield fruit above ground
The time to plant root crops with edible roots below soil
The time to harvest crops
Gardening By the Moon in Practice
To practice gardening by the moon, you would plant crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn and beans when the moon is waxing. Potatoes, radishes, carrots, beets and other root crops would go into the soil while the moon is waning.
Many calendars, especially gardening calendars, mark the phases of the moon following each 29.5 day cycle. Farmer’s almanacs often include a section on “best days” for everything from shearing sheep to going fishing. These activities also are determined by the position of the moon. Biodynamic calendars are more detailed and break plants down into four categories: root, leaf, flower, and fruit, listing days and times for when and what to plant.
Does Lunar Phase Gardening Work?
New studies are being launched to give us more information about plant behavior. One result is that we now know that plants have a circadian rhythm just as do humans, animals and birds. What this means is that certain processes take place within the plant at certain times within a 24-hour period.
We know that seeds sprout and trees bud out when the temperature rises and the day lengthens. We also know that when the sun rises, photosynthesis is activated in many plants. Other plants rely on moonlight, opening their blooms to pollinators only after sunset. Studies are beginning to show a connection between the rise of fluid through a plant and the moon’s gravitational pull. Scientists are working to address the question of whether or not the moon affects how a plant grows, in the same way it affects the oceans’ tides. Results may help gardeners determine ideal times to plant seeds for good germination.
Using Moon Phase Gardening
You don’t have to be an astronomer to test your green thumb with moon phase gardening. Even the more complicated structure of a biodynamic method is as easy as working with a daily calendar. Consider the other variables present when you are ready to plant your garden. If the temperature, soil, and weather are all adequate, it’s easy to find out the current phase of the moon.
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Henri Gouin. Influence of lunisolar tides on plants. Parametric resonance induced by periodic variations of gravity. Physics of Fluids, vol. 32, 2020. doi:10.1063/5.0023717